Montgomery County mom shares her experience with colon cancer, raises awareness for those under 50

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Monday, March 25, 2024
Montgomery County mother shares her experience with colon cancer
Doctors are sounding the alarm as colon cancer is on the rise in people under age 50.

PERKIOMENVILLE, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- This year, the U.S. could hit a sobering milestone - the first time ever there will be two million new cancer cases.

And there's a special concern about the rise in colorectal cancer in those under 50.

"I was diagnosed with Stage 2 colorectal cancer in 2014. I was 30 years old," recalls Brooke Fuller.

Brooke Fuller was overwhelmed by her diagnosis.

"My husband and I had been married for just over 3 years, and our son was about 2 and a half years old."

Worried about some symptoms, she'd gone to her doctor but was surprised when a colonoscopy showed a tumor in her rectum.

"I was scared - frustrated," she notes.

But the businesswoman, wife and mom says meeting her team of doctors at Fox Chase Cancer Center put her at ease.

Gastrointestinal oncologist Christopher Cann says younger adult cancers have been rising.

"And one of the most pronounced is colorectal cancer," he adds.

In fact, those born in the 1980s or 90s have twice the risk of colon cancer, and 4 times the risk of rectal cancer compared to those born in the 1950s.

"It's a really significant change. And it just continues to rise," says Dr. Cann.

It is now recommended that screenings start at age 45, however, 80% of those eligible aren't getting tested.

To raise awareness, 27,000 blue flags were recently placed on Washington's National Mall, representing the under-50s who will be diagnosed by 2030.

And the widow of actor Chadwick Boseman, who died of colon cancer at 43, is adding her voice.

Dr Cann says about 20% of colon cancer is genetically driven, so knowing family history is important. Has a close relative had colon cancer or an advanced polyp?

If so, "You should get screening at age 40 or 10 years before the onset of that condition for your first-degree relative," says Dr. Cann.

For the 80% like Brooke, with no known family history, prevention is key.

Experts believe obesity problem is a major factor driving the increase in younger adults.

So a healthy weight, a diet high in fiber but low in red and processed meats, and regular exercise make a difference.

"The people who have regular exercise have about a 30% risk reduction," says Dr Cann.

Brooke just celebrated 10 years of survivorshop.

And though it was hard to talk about her cancer at first, she's now passionate about educating others.

"If you are showing signs and symptoms or you're experiencing things that aren't right, call your doctor. Get seen, get checked out, be pro-active!" she says firmly.

Dr Cann agrees.

He says young adults have to be especially watchful, because their bodies can compensate for the disease.